A clear benefit of riding out the blizzard of 2022 is having the uninterrupted time to read John Kaag’s Hiking with Nietzsche. Working as a career coach and frequently assisting clients to see beyond the magnetizing allure of switching companies or even careers to find nirvana, I couldn’t put down Kaag’s masterpiece and its relevance to my own career. The tendency to switch careers to find happiness can easily become a habitual avoidance of identifying what you truly want to do and be in life and the impact and legacy you want to make.
The dreaded monotony that comes with either staying in a bad work situation or, worse, chronically changing jobs to treat the symptom and not the illness, can descend one into the demon Nietzsche called the “eternal return.” “The question in each and every thing, ‘Do you want this again and innumerable times again?’ would lie on your actions as the heaviest weight.” “Are we, in the words of William Butler Yeats, ‘content to live it all again?’” To be well-adjusted, for Nietzsche, “is to choose, wholeheartedly, what we think and where we find and create meaning.”
Jodie Cook, writer, weight lifter, traveler, and expert on entrepreneurism, cautions that “One great thing about today’s working world is that, at any given time, you can choose a different path and begin a completely new journey. But what if that means we are in a constant state of believing the grass is always greener? What if by not sticking at a career, through tough times and all, the workforce of today misses out on the satisfaction and rewards that can be gleaned from longevity? What if the grass isn’t actually greener?” Cook further talks of the great aversion to sound career decision making: “If it’s so easy to change tack at any given opportunity, where’s the incentive to stay, to focus, and to build something really great? What happens when you shift your attention, find a new career or start a new business, and then realize that you just switched problems a, b and c for problems x, y and z?”
One of the most often comments I receive from people is, “Wow, you sure have had a lot of jobs!” implying that I’ve ‘gone greener’ a heck of a lot. Truth is, I’ve had many opportunities to pursue meaningful endeavors that have not only been financially rewarding and life satisfying but more significantly have paved a life-long path toward developing skills that would have otherwise laid dormant only to haunt me later as unrequited longings. I’ve chronicled the career breadcrumbs I’ve left along my career trail in my book, Audacious At Any Age without which I never would have been able to bring the depth and insight I provide clients with in my career coaching.
It’s all about knowing the difference between when it’s better to dig deeper into the earth where you work now so that the fruits of your labors yield the greatest potential or, if you’re like me, wanting to be sure that your ultimate legacy is to have not left any significant urge undone. In my case whether it was being a producer for London Records, playing as a singer-songwriter at CBGBs and Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe, performing as a standup comedian at NYC’s Gotham Comedy Club, producing and hosting for Connecticut Public Television (CPTV), or hosting and producing a program on WSTC/WNLK AM-News Talk radio, everything was well thought out, planned, developed, and fulfilled.
The key, as Jodie Cook explains in “The Grass Might Not Be Greener: Avoid A Career Mistake”, is to “Avoid short-term, quick fixes and work to outlast your rivals. In other words, carefully plan your next moves based on your own considered view of the future. I’ve seen people make disastrous career moves based on a case of grass is always greener. They took for granted how good they had it, they were blinded by some bright lights – then guess what? Same sh*t, different company. Except now you’re further back than you were before, peddling furiously to keep up, just to prove to anyone that will listen that you made the right decision. The honeymoon period fades – it always does – and then it’s onto the next fix, like a drug addict stuck answering their short-term impulses.” Being green with envy often reveals that we want what someone else has without even know what we ourselves most genuinely need.
To be well-adjusted, for Nietzsche, is to choose, wholeheartedly, what we think and where we find and create meaning. The answer cannot be given by consensus or on behalf of some impersonal institutions. It is, indeed, the most personal of answers-the one that always determines an individual choice.”
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